Recipes for Rich Grays

American Watercolor Weekly advisor John Salminen shares the color combinations that he uses to create his signature grays.

By John Salminen

watercolor urban landscape
In “High Line Shadows,” you can see warm mixed grays on the left moving to cool mixed grays on the right.

I don’t have one favorite color but I do have many favorite combinations. My palette hasn’t changed much over the years, and I rely on the colors I’ve chosen to help me create mood and atmosphere in my cityscapes. Two of the combinations I use regularly to create a rich assortment of neutral grays are alizarin crimson with phthalo green (blue shade) and ultramarine blue with either burnt sienna or burnt umber. I can make warm or cool mixes by prioritizing one of the two colors, and both combinations are capable of making a rich, mixed black.


  1. As a retired 70 yr old and introduced to water colours 3 years ago, I thouragly enjoyed reading John Salminen article about greys. I love neutral colours. I live in London so that’s perfect. I also love to add a pop of colour too. Of course my favourite master artist is Turner.


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